The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005, dir. by Cristi Puiu)

Death-of-Mr-Lazarescu-Cristi-Puiu-Dante“Set in Bucharest, Romania, an ailing old man is carried by an ambulance from hospital to hospital during one night, while doctors refuse to treat
him. The ever-worsening journey of Mr Lazarescu, whose first name is Dante becomes a descent into the Underworld of Romania’s medical
services. Echoes to Dante abound.” — Contributor Cristian Ispir

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is the first instalment in a projected series of ‘Six Stories from the Bucharest Suburbs’. Puiu cites Eric Rohmer’s Moral Tales as his chief inspiration, but on this evidence an equally telling parallel would be Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Dekalog, though Puiu is more inclined towards self-conscious symbolism than the Pole. There are characters called Dante and Virgil and an unseen Dr Anghel, and the various hospital trips and their cyclical routines would match anyone’s idea of hell. And although the film’s title and mounting medical evidence suggests the opposite, Lazarescu’s own name hints that some kind of miraculous resurrection might be in prospect. It’s not just the film’s ambiguous ending that supports this, but also Fiscuteanu’s uncannily convincing portrayal of a man increasingly aware that he’s crossing the bridge between life and death but fiercely determined not to go without a fight, even as his faculties betray him. If Puiu’s main theme is the absence of love, his film is ultimately about the love of life.” — Review by Michael Brooke for the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine

Contributed by Cristian Ispir (University College London/Université de Lorraine)